Time to Celebrate
On May 17, crowds gathered in downtown Crawfordsville to watch a herculean crane hoist a new 86-foot four-sided tower into place atop the 1875-76 Montgomery County Courthouse.
Architect George W. Bunting designed the courthouse, and his eclectic take on the Neoclassical style isn’t the only unusual attribute of the building. Rather than situating it in the middle of a city block like so many courthouse squares, Bunting sited the courthouse on the corner of a city block, with commercial buildings surrounding it to the rear and side. The grand structure soared 155 feet from the base to the top of the majestic tower—until 1941, when 68 feet at the top was removed due to structural concerns.
The courthouse stood longer without its tower than with it – at least a generation of Crawfordsville residents only saw the truncated building. But the unwavering determination of a small group of locals means future generations will admire the landmark as it was originally designed.
Dr. James Kirtley had long dreamed of seeing the courthouse with its tower when he formed a committee of the Montgomery County Historical Society in 1996 to work on rebuilding the clock tower. Kirtley passed away in 2000, but Sandy Lofland-Brown took up the torch and has spearheaded the effort ever since.
Dogged fundraising over the past 22 years led to donations from individuals, families, corporations, groups and foundations, along with money from the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners and the City of Crawfordsville. In 2014, Indiana Landmarks awarded a $70,000 challenge grant, made possible by a bequest from Olen Gowens, longtime preservation advocate and supporter of the clock tower effort. All told, the clock tower committee has corralled nearly $500,000, but still needs to raise $48,000 to pay back the construction loan.
Campbellsville Industries – the same company that re-created the Moorish towers on the West Baden Springs Hotel – manufactured and installed the new tower, fabricating sections at its facility in Kentucky, based on historic photos and specifications from the original.
The community will officially dedicate the new tower as the Kirtley Clock Tower at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 17. All are welcome to come celebrate the towering achievement. You’ll know its time when you hear the chime!
For the latest news on the clock tower project and to see photos and video of the tower installation, follow the Montgomery County Courthouse Clock Tower Committee on Facebook.
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